Nature's Boundaries

by Francesca

Author's disclaimer: Nothing's mine but the words; everthing else belongs to Pet Fly. No infringement is intended. Please go away if you're under 18!

Author's notes: Feedback requested as always.

"How the fuck should I know where you parked? I was up in the airplane, remember?" said Blair Sandburg, pointing upwards with his index finger.

"Aren't you the Shaman of a great city?" Jim Ellison asked him, intently scanning the rows of cars.

"Aren't you the Sentinel of a great city?" Blair shot back. "Sniff it out or something."

"Oh, great," replied Jim. "Brilliant advice. Sniff out the truck. I love it."

"Hey, that's what I'm here for," said Blair.

"Yeah, well, why don't you make yourself useful and have a vision of where the truck is?" said Jim.

Blair made a face at him. "I think the great city is in trouble, man."

"Yeah, well, this is only the practice city," Jim deadpanned. "When we blow up this city, we can go find another city."

"A warmer city," agreed Blair.

"Yeah. With a nicer airport," said Jim. "Seriously, Blair," he added, sighing, "I'm starting to think I didn't even park in this area."

"Aaaaagh," said Blair, slumping theatrically against a red sportscar.

"I'm sorry," Jim said, sincerely, looking at him. "Really. I was thinking about coming to get you, plus I'm just bone tired suddenly."

"Tired?" asked Blair.

"Yeah, I've been sleeping like shit," said Jim distractedly, turning to scan the dark parking lot again. "Where the hell did I put the truck?"

"What do you mean, 'sleeping like shit'?" Blair pressed.

"What do you think I mean?" Jim asked back. "Not sleeping. Wait, wait: I think I remember," he added suddenly, stretching up to peer across the lot, weighted down slightly by Blair's bag, slung across his shoulder. "Yeah, it's there, it's over by the far gate. Come on."

"Hang on, wait a minute," said Blair, crossing his arms. "Not sleeping like really wired? Like hyper-alert?" Jim turned to stare at his partner. "Like too much caffeine, sort of? — like it's the middle of the night and you're not even tired?"

"Yeah," said Jim, surprised. "Yeah, just like that. What is that, telepathy or something?"

Blair shook his head no, then tapped his own chest.

"What, you too?" asked Jim.

"Yeah," said Blair grimly. "I thought it was just the hotel, you know? Nervousness about the conference."

"And now you think it isn't?" asked Jim.

"Well it's a hell of a coincidence, isn't it?" asked Blair. "When did you start feeling tired?"

"Just now, sort of. When you — oh, dammit," Jim muttered.

"When I got off the plane," Blair said, finishing his sentence.

"Yeah," Jim acknowledged. "I thought it was just catching up with me finally. But I guess somehow my body knows you're back." He blew out a breath and shot a sympathetic look at Blair. "Come on, let's get to the truck," he said quietly, beginning to walk towards it. Blair pushed himself away from the sportscar and followed him.

"This blows," said Blair, scowling. "This blows hard."

"I'm sorry," said Jim.

"It's not your fault," said Blair. "It must be some other damn Sentinel-Guide thing — like it thinks that if we're separated, there must be sort of trouble, so we both go into overdrive. Some kind of adrenaline rush." He laughed suddenly. "It's sort of annoying that this whole thing is geared to us living in the jungle. It doesn't really allow for the complexities of a modern urban American relationship."

"Yeah," agreed Jim. "You were on the east coast — that's probably further apart than any Sentinel and Guide have ever been, ever."

"The miracle of air travel," mused Blair, chewing thoughtfully on his lower lip. "I guess we should take this into account in future."

Jim nodded, then reached out and pulled Sandburg affectionately into his side as they walked, slinging an arm around his neck.

"You don't seem tired," Jim noted.

"No," agreed Blair. "No, I'm not. Though I should be — I haven't slept for three days either."

"So why me and not you?" asked Jim. "Why am I getting tired?"

"Old age?" teased Sandburg, and Jim tightened the arm around Blair's neck into a mock choke-hold. "Kidding, kidding," yelped Blair. "Hell, I don't know. You think I know everything?" and Jim grinned and relaxed his arm back into a casual embrace. "That's the positive part of all this anyway," said Blair. "I get another chapter for the opus."

"Like you need one. That thing is going to be eighteen volumes before you're through with it," he joked.

"Yeah, right," replied Sandburg, amused at the thought. "Ah, the truck," said Blair, seeing it, finally, looming out of the darkness. "I feel like hugging it."

"That's just your touchy-feely sixties side coming out," said Jim.

"Gimme the keys," said Blair, pulling away from Jim and extending his palm.

"Why?" asked Jim.

"You just said you were getting tired. And I'm wide awake," explained Blair, and Jim nodded and pulled the keys out of his pocket and dropped them in Blair's hand.

"*I'm* having a vision now," Jim said, stowing Blair's bag away once Blair had unlocked the truck's doors. "A vision of the future: I'm old and tired and you have to drive me everywhere. And I sleep in the passenger seat with my mouth open."

Blair laughed as he settled himself into the driver's seat, pulling his seat belt across his shoulder. "Well, not to burst your bubble or anything, but it's probably going to go the other way," he said, sliding the key into the ignition. "I ain't got no Sentinel senses," he explained. "And I need glasses now. You've got the vision, so you'll be doing all the driving."

"What, you mean I might finally be in control?" asked Jim.

"Well, I didn't say that," said Blair, reaching out to put the truck into drive.

"Hang on," Jim said, quickly stopping Blair's hand.

"What?" asked Blair, and then Jim leaned over and kissed him. Blair instinctively bent towards him, wanting harder pressure from those soft lips, but he had his seat belt on and so Jim was able to keep the kiss light, hovering gently over Blair's mouth and teasing his lover's lips with the tip of his tongue.

Jim pulled back finally and regarded his breathless partner with amusement. "See, I was good," he said. "I waited."

"Jim," Blair said sadly, "you know why — "

"I know, I know," said Jim quietly. "Nevada," he said, and then leaned in for another kiss, smothering Blair's guilt beneath it.

"Okay," Jim said finally, pulling back and repositioning himself comfortably in the passenger seat, "you can drive now," and Blair nodded vaguely and obligingly put the truck into gear, steering them slowly out of the lot and into the street.

"So tell me about the conference," said Jim.

"Jim, I only want to protect you," Blair replied, staring out the front window at the road.

Jim nodded, then reached out and rested a reassuring hand on Blair's thigh. "I know," he said again. "So tell me about the conference."

Blair sighed and nodded. "Oh, it was fine. Same old, same old. You just gotta do it, you know, to keep your hand in. I was, like, the Vanna White of the American Anthropological," and Jim laughed at this, and looked questioningly at his partner. "I did the introductions at this one panel," Blair explained. "Introduced a lot of folks much more famous than me. I smiled a lot. I was charming and all. Which was good, you know, because this one guy, afterward, introduced me to his publisher, who just might be interested in my dissertation."

"Really?" asked Jim.

"Really," confirmed Blair, and then he tore his eyes from the road to shoot a quick look at Jim. "I mean, the fake one. Obviously. The one I defended."

"Well, that's great," said Jim sincerely.

"Well, it isn't a done deal yet, so let's hold off on the champagne," said Blair.

"It's still great that you were able to network," objected Jim. "Especially on no sleep."

"I'm telling you that I wasn't even tired," said Blair. "And my hair, man," he began, and then he stopped and laughed. "My hair was seriously nervous, Jim — it was standing straight up. I had to slick it down and wear it back the whole time."

"You've got emotive hair," agreed Jim. "It's like a barometer of your mood."

"No joke," said Blair. "Hey, great Sentinel," he added abruptly, "Use those eyes and tell me if there's a parking spot up there."

"I can hardly bear the glamour of it all," said Jim darkly, peering ahead. "No, there's not — try around the corner."

"Right," said Blair, giving Prospect a miss and parking around the corner instead.

Jim yawned as they made their way up the street, to the entrance of their building.

"Someone needs some sleep," said Blair affectionately.

"Yeah, but seriously, what about you?" Jim asked, stepping into the elevator. "When do you get to sleep?"

"I don't know," said Blair. "Later, I guess. Whenever it lets me."

"Simon wants you back at work tomorrow, Officer Sandburg," said Jim, pulling out the keys to the loft.

"Yeah, well, Simon'll have to wait: *Dr.* Sandburg has to check in at the U. first thing in the morning," said Blair. "I'll come after, though, as soon as I can."

Jim nodded, and they stepped out of the elevator and made their way to their front door.

"I could kiss this door too," Blair said. "I am so damn happy to be home. The thing about academics," he added, stepping into the loft as Jim swung the door open, "is that they're all weird. Weirder than me, even. Shaman of a great city — I wouldn't have been even a runner-up in the weirdness contest. Well, maybe a runner up. Oh, beautiful sofa," Blair said, making a beeline for it and throwing himself down. "Beautiful television, beautiful remote control."

"Would you like a beautiful beer?" Jim asked, setting Blair's bag down. "Or a beautiful cup of tea?"

"Nah, I did nothing but drink fluids on the plane. Man, you should have seen the food they gave us — actually, no, forget it," Blair amended. "Ignorance is bliss. Hey look, it's beautiful Chuck Norris," said Blair, switching on the television.

"Now I'm getting jealous," said Jim, drinking down a glass of water.

"Well, don't be. I could use a lot more of beautiful you, if you're interested," said Blair.

Jim grinned, set down his glass, and moved to sit next to Blair on the sofa. Blair waggled his eyebrows at Jim suggestively and then grabbed him, pulling him down on top of him. Jim laughed and stretched out over Blair, adjusting himself for comfort as Blair brushed his mouth against Jim's neck.

"Mmmm, nice," said Jim, feeling Blair's lips moving over his skin, kissing and sucking. "I'm not crushing you?" he asked softly.

"Nope," Blair murmured into his ear, wrapping his arms around Jim's back. "I'm a big enough guy, I've just got short legs."

"Okay, then," said Jim, relaxing into Blair's body. And then Blair turned Jim's head toward his and began to lay slow, sloppy, wet kisses on his mouth, so that Jim's lips and the area around them grew slick and warm with saliva. Jim moaned and felt wrapped in Blair's lazy heat, and maybe they didn't live in the jungle, but sometimes, with Blair, he felt that he had the best of it, the part that was exotic and warm and alive and home to him. And on this happy thought he turned his head and buried his warm, wet face in Blair's neck, and began to drift off into sleep.

Blair looked down and found himself with two warm armfuls of Jim Ellison, and he smiled to himself and felt suddenly sure why he was still awake, knew that it was his job to keep watch while his Sentinel rested. He ran a loving hand over the back of Ellison's head, caressing the soft hair, nudging him deeper into sleep, and then pressed his palms against Jim's back and held Jim tightly to his chest while he slept.

And Jim, who normally slept so lightly, slept the whole night through snuggled atop Blair, stirring only when the bright morning sunlight broke through the french doors. "Mmmm," grunted Ellison blearily, opening his eyes and sitting up heavily, and Blair looked up at his sleepy, mussed partner and thought that he could see within him the boy that James Ellison had once been.

"Morning, sunshine," said Blair, reaching out with a hand to caress Jim's side.

"Mmm," Jim said again, and then he frowned and looked down at his way-too-awake partner. "You didn't sleep at all, did you?"

"Nope," said Blair cheerily. "Though I did catch most of the Chuck Norris marathon on cable."

"Oh yeah?" asked Jim, rubbing his face. "Which ones?"

"Well, let's see," said Blair, pushing himself up on his elbows. There was 'Chuck Norris Beats The Shit Out of Richard Lynch,' and 'Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee Beat The Shit Out Of Some Other Guys,' and then 'Chuck Norris Beats The Shit Out Of Some C-Grade Villain From The Seventies Whose Name I Can't Remember.'"

"Those are good ones," replied Jim, turning to look at him with a serious expression. "Listen, Sandburg, I'm worried about you. What if you crash and burn today?"

"I won't do anything stupid," Blair assured him. "If I'm tired, I'll call you and you'll come get me."

"Okay," said Jim reluctantly. "You want first shower?"

"Yeah, actually," said Blair, getting up. "I smell like a jetliner." Jim followed Blair into the bathroom, watching Blair strip off his clothes and get in the shower before stripping off his own shirt and bending over the sink to wash and shave.

"Hey, you didn't think to call the realtor, did you?" Blair asked him from the shower.

"Aw, shit," said Jim, raising his head from the sink. "I forgot all about that."

"It's just that she left that message — " said Blair.

"I know, I know, I'll call her," said Jim. "I'll call her from the station."

"Okay. I mean, you still want to get a weekend place, don't you?" Blair asked.

"Yes," said Jim. "I do. I just forgot, okay? I'm not repressing it or anything."

"Okay, cool," said Blair. He rinsed his hair out a final time and then called to Jim, "You about ready to switch off?"

"Yeah," said Jim, stripping off the rest of his clothes. Blair stepped out of the shower and began swathing himself in towels as Jim stepped in.

"Jesus, this water's hot," Jim exclaimed.

"Sorry," said Blair. "I forgot to turn it down."

"Actually, it feels pretty good," Jim admitted. He sighed contentedly and turned so that the spray pulsed against muscles sore from sleeping on the sofa all night.

And he must have gone into a mini-zone because then suddenly Blair was saying, "I'm done shaving. What are you doing in there?" and he blinked and began to wash himself quickly.

"Nothing," Jim replied. "I'm coming."

"Who's hogging the hot water now?" teased Blair, leaving the bathroom, and Jim smiled.

When he emerged, Blair was already dressed and sitting at the kitchen table, wet hair pulled into a rough ponytail, reading the paper. "I put coffee up," Blair said, not looking up, and Jim nodded and went upstairs to get dressed.

The coffee was up by the time he came downstairs again, dressed for the day. "You want some?" he asked Blair, moving to pour himself a cup.

"Yeah, thanks," said Blair distractedly "Oh, hey, look, Jim," said Blair, "Horny Whores and Sluts Want Me Now." Jim frowned and turned to look at him. Blair glanced up from the paper and said, defensively, "Hey it says so. Right here!" And then Blair couldn't keep a straight face and he laughed and turned the page.

"Didn't you know that already?" asked Jim, rummaging for milk in the fridge.

"I always suspected," replied Blair, "but — oh, hey, here we go. Erotic Bodyrub by Carlos. 'Hansome Spanish/Italian' — that's 'Hansome', Jim: H-A-N-S-O-M-E." Blair laughed again and his voice dropped into its lowest, sexiest, register. "Ooooh, just what I want — a hot night of love with a guy who can't spell..." he said, flipping the page.

Jim brought over the two cups of coffee and slid into a chair at the table, grinning. "You getting visions of love, now, Chief?" he teased.

"Actually," said Blair, studying the page intently, "I'm getting visions of reform school. 'Kinky Sorority Sluts' — man, we need more money for job training programs in this country."

"I thought you'd be all for sexual expression," said Jim, sipping his coffee.

"Oh I am," said Blair, frowning over the next page, "but this makes me go all Marxist inside. I hope they have a union at least," he muttered, and Jim grinned at him. Blair looked up, met Jim's amused eyes and grinned back. "Not that I object to pornography in its proper place," he added primly.

"Oh yeah? And what's that?" asked Jim.

"852 Prospect," replied Blair, extending his sock-clad foot under the table. "3rd Floor."

Jim smiled and kicked Blair's foot away.

"What are you looking for anyway?" he asked.

"An erotic bodyrub from Carlos," deadpanned Blair. "No, I had some idea we'd catch a movie later," he said more seriously, flipping the paper closed. "Old Chuck whetted my appetite, but there doesn't seem to be anything good on."

"I admire your optimism," said Jim. "Myself, I've become convinced that every time we try to make a plan, something in Cascade blows up."

"Yeah, well, like you said, there are other cities," said Blair, and then he chugged the rest of his coffee quickly and got up. "I gotta find my shoes," he muttered, "and get out of here."

"Don't forget to eat something," said Jim.

"I will, I will," said Blair, rummaging by the couch. "I'll pick up a muffin."

"And call me if you start to crash," said Jim.

"I'll call you if I start to crash," Blair repeated obediently, sitting on the sofa and putting his shoes on. He got up and rummaged briefly in his still packed bag from his trip, pulling out a folder of papers and transferring them to his satchel. Standing, he grabbed his coat.

"And come over here and kiss me," said Jim, and Blair turned and darted over to the table, and gave Jim a quick goodbye kiss.

"I'll call you when I leave Rainier," Blair called to him on his way out the door, and Jim nodded and picked up his coffee, pulling over the newspaper that Blair had abandoned.

* * *

Jim knew instantly it was Blair on the phone, even though he didn't know how he knew. He picked up the phone at his desk and said, immediately, "It's eleven-fucking-thirty. Where the hell are you?"

"I'm in traffic," Blair replied irritably, "having a grand old time. Where are you?"

"Seriously, get your ass over here," said Jim. "Simon, overprotective soul that he is, won't send me out on a case without you any more, and he is getting seriously pissed at your continued absence."

"Feed him a donut," retorted Blair, "and hang on."

"He's had three," said Jim, lowering his voice. "And we're all waiting for the sugar rush to kick in. It's not gonna be pretty."

"Well, I'm in the car. What else can I do?" asked Blair, testily.

"You holding up over there?" Jim asked.

"I'm fine, I'm awake, I'm just annoyed," replied Blair. "You know what the department's like — it's a roach motel — easy in, hard to get out. And did you call the realtor?" Blair inquired abruptly, balancing his cell phone on his shoulder as he made a turn.

"Shit, no," said Jim. Rafe led a witness past his desk, and instinctively he lowered his voice further still. "I forgot again."

"Well, call her, already," said Blair. "That message, man — I've got a feeling about it. I think she found the house. I think this one is the one."

"Great, so now your psychic powers extend to real estate?" asked Jim.

"People in glass houses, Ellison," retorted Blair, "should keep their pants on."

"You know, you could call the realtor," Jim pointed out.

"No I can't, Jim," said Blair, shifting into the left lane and suddenly pulling ahead of traffic in a rush of speed. "I'm sorry but I just can't. The very thought of owning property gives me the heebie-jeebies."

Jim frowned. "I thought you liked the idea."

"I do like the idea," said Blair. "You know I like the idea. Though I'm still not sure now we're supposed to protect the great city and live in the country on weekends," he admitted.

"It worked for Batman," said Jim.

"Yeah, well, Batman had a better car," replied Blair.

"You've got a point there," said Jim. "I suppose we could pool our resources and get a better car," he added as an afterthought.

"Jim, I'll share a house with you, I'll share my body with you, but I am not sharing car insurance with you," said Blair firmly.

"I'm hurt," said Jim.

"Yeah, well," snorted Blair. "Every good relationship has boundaries."

"Ok, fine: I accept that," Jim replied. "But I still don't get why you won't talk to the realtor."

"Because I'm in massive denial about the whole thing," explained Blair. "I want to buy a house with you, but I don't want to actually own anything. I just want it to, like, appear, and then I'll go live in it."

"You're nuts, do you know that?" muttered Jim.

"Yeah, I know," admitted Blair. "But you've gotta work with me, here. You call the realtor, and pretend that *you're* getting the house, and I'll pay my half of the money, but we won't talk about it. That way it's sort of like rent. Sort of."

"You're out of your tree, Sandburg," Jim said.

"I'm just not a calling-the-realtor sort of person!" Blair yelled.

"Yeah, well, you are now," said Jim. "Get it through your head: you are buying this house."

"Shhhh!" hissed Blair. "Don't let me know that!"

Jim smiled. "Blair," he repeated firmly, "you are buying a house."

"Rub it in, why don't you!"

"Which is just as well, because you could use the tax shelter," said Jim, smile turning into a grin.

"My god!" Blair yelled, "it's an obscene phone call!"

"Yeah," said Jim dangerously. "And you, Sandburg, have a 401K plan."

"You are a dirty rotten evil bastard," said Blair softly. "I'm pulling into the lot, so watch your back," he said, and hung up.

Blair emerged from the elevator looking like a thundercloud, just as Simon Banks emerged from his office like a bear from its cave. Jim felt trapped by this double danger converging upon him, and then grabbed for the ringing phone on his desk like a lifeline. "Ellison," he said quickly, grinning at both partner and Captain.

After a second his grin faded. "Yes, this is Detective Ellison," he said, and his eyes sought out Sandburg's, and Sandburg was instantly at his service, argument forgotten. And bless the mysterious ways of his Guide, but Jim didn't even have to snap his fingers for Blair to know he wanted a pen.

"Please calm down, miss, and speak slowly," said Jim, his eyes locked with his partner's. "Yes," he said, looking down and scribbling. "Yes. Yes, I've got that. But I have to ask you how you — wait, miss? Miss?" Both Simon and Blair were staring at Jim as he slowly hung up the phone. "She hung up," Jim said vaguely.

"Who, Jim?" Simon prompted.

Jim shrugged. "She wouldn't say. Anonymous tip," he added, again glancing at Sandburg, who was standing there quietly, just waiting. "She says that there's a drug lab on Coral Street. And that they're expecting a shipment of raw materials today."

"Is that it?" asked Simon.

"Pretty much," said Jim. "She sounded...almost hysterical."

"You think she's a crank?" Simon asked Jim.

"No, I think she's sincere, and scared half out of her mind about something," Jim replied.

"An anonymous tip's not probable cause," said Simon.

"She said it was a Rat operation," said Jim, looking hard at Simon, and Simon sighed. The Rats were popularly known for their widespread control of low level drug manufacture and dealing, and for their remarkable ability to suddenly vanish through the smallest hole every time the police were close to closing in on them.

"Rats or no Rats," said Simon, "there still ain't probable cause."

Jim nodded reluctant acknowledgment of this.

"Except..." said Blair thoughtfully, and Jim and Simon turned to stare down at him. Blair seemed startled by the sudden attention. "Sorry, I just thought — "

"Just thought what, Sandburg?" said Simon, irritably.

"Well, just that, you know, the Rats do big business in weed," said Blair, and he raised his hands defensively when Simon glared at him. "Hey, so I've heard, okay? I've spent almost half my life on a college campus."

"Your students buy weed from the Rats?" Jim asked curiously, and Sandburg looked suddenly guilty.

"Well, mainly faculty, now, actually," admitted Blair. "The kids are on to way hipper drugs."

"Oh brother," snorted Simon.

"Go on, Chief," Jim encouraged.

"So I was thinking that they might also be growing weed out at this supposed lab," said Blair. "Since they've got such a lock on the business."

"Yeah, and?" pressed Simon angrily.

"And" Blair retorted, "growing marijuana takes a lot of juice. Or so I've heard, okay? God, Simon, will you relax?!"

But Jim was nodding. "I'm with you, Chief," said Jim. "I think I'm with you," he said, perching on the edge of his desk and picking up the phone.

"It's a little sneaky, but — " began Blair.

"But it's good," interrupted Jim, dialing. "It's great, we can do that. If they'll play ball with us, that is," he added.

"I don't know why they wouldn't," replied Blair.

Simon threw up his hands. "Can somebody tell me what we're talking about?" he asked angrily. "Who's he calling?" he demanded of Blair Sandburg.

"Cascade Gas and Electric," replied Blair, drawing his captain aside gently so as not to disturb his partner's phone call. "Like I was saying, Simon, if they're growing that stuff they'll be using these great big lamps, which use a ton of power. And maybe we don't have probable cause — "

" — but the electric company will," finished Simon. "Is that it?"

"Yeah, exactly," said Blair. "Enough to send a truck over or something. You know: unusual power usage blah blah. Something wrong with the lines blah blah. And so maybe — "

" — we can put Jim in there. As a temporary CG and E worker," mused Simon quietly. "And see if he senses anything."

"Yeah," said Blair, softly, excitedly. "Yeah. And then whammo: probable cause. Send in the cavalry."

"Damn sneaky," said Simon, thinking it over. "I like it," he decided, blessing Blair with a rare smile.

"Score one for the counterculture, man," Blair said, grinning back at him.

* * *

"Kevlar. Kevlar. Kevlar," murmured Blair as he again raised the miniature binoculars to his eyes. Everyone had to believe in something; at the moment, Blair Sandburg believed fervently in Kevlar.

>From his position at the second story window he had a good view of the tobacco shop on the other side of the street. He then searched out the white, double-parked utilities van and watched the uniformed driver for a few moments before scanning further up the block. And then a beat-up yellow truck came around the corner, passed the utility van, and pulled around the corner to the shop's service entrance.

<That's it,> Blair said to Jim, pushing his words to the Sentinel. <That's it, they're around the corner. They've parked. There's two guys in the truck. They're just waiting.> Sandburg risked a quick glance at Jim through the binoculars, and a smile broke across his anxious face.

Jim, Blair thought, was simply marvelous. Pencil tucked behind his ear, tools slung low around his waist, Jim got out of the van and leaned lazily against its door, glancing down at the clipboard in his hand. His demeanor was perfect, his body language, perfect: he was the very picture of the bored and disgruntled blue collar worker — he had, Blair thought, smiling, embraced the part with relish.

Blair trained his glasses back on the yellow truck by the service entrance, and began to bounce nervously as the shop's service door opened. <Jim, there's two of them. From the shop,> he reported softly. <Okay, the truck guys are coming out to meet them. I can't see if they're armed; they don't look it. They're all talking: four of them, total. Okay, now they're going around to the back of the truck. They're opening the back door. They're small boxes — maybe two feet by two feet.> Blair wasn't looking at Jim, but Jim's emotional acknowledgment of his understanding flowed back like a wave, making him shiver. <Affirmation received,> Blair murmured back.

"Sandburg," said Simon Banks, and Blair lowered the glasses and turned, startled, as Simon crossed over to him from the door, a paper cup of coffee extended from his hand. Blair waved it away, raising the glasses to his face again, turning back toward the window.

"Truck's here," said Blair. "Is everything ready on your end?"

"Yeah — I've got a team about two blocks away," said Simon, "awaiting my word. Sandburg, tell him not to be a hero, okay?" Banks added. "In and out — just find out if they're making drugs in there. Then we send in the guys with guns."

"Right," muttered Blair as Jim detached himself from the van and began to lope toward the shop's entrance. Blair tightened his hands on the binoculars, tense with worry. "Kevlar," Blair said again, the word falling softly from his lips like a prayer, which it was. New gods for new ages, perhaps — but right now Blair Sandburg had to believe that the Kevlar vest Jim wore underneath his uniform would keep him safe if anything went wrong.

And Jim opened the shop door, and disappeared inside, and quickly Blair panned back to the alley, to check on the unloading process.

The guys were still unloading the boxes, piling three or four on to a dolly professionally before wheeling it in through the large iron back door, returning a minute or two later with the empty dolly and starting over.

And time passed, and then suddenly one of the guys appeared at the door, and he was yelling and then two of the other guys dropped what they were doing and bolted back inside while the third frantically reloaded the remaining boxes back into the truck.

Blair yelled, <Shit! They're on to you!> and then wham! he was reeling, and he dropped the binoculars and he knew that there was violence, and then he was tearing out of the room, yelling back at a stunned Simon Banks, "Call in the team! Now!"

"Sandburg, wait!" Simon yelled back, but Blair was tearing down the steps, pulling his gun from his holster, and then he was flying out the door and across the street in a blur of hair and flannel and corduroy.

He burst into the shop and yelled, "Freeze!" but there didn't seem to be anyone there, though Blair inched forward methodically and checked behind the counter to be sure. And then he heard a high pitched scream and made his way through the doorway to the back of the shop, toward the noise, keeping his gun raised.

>From there he could now see the open side door, and also the three unconscious men on the floor. Blair recognized them as the guys he'd been watching, and then he heard the high pitched scream again, and it was coming from a stairwell, and he crossed to it and slowly began to make his way down.

And Jim was at the bottom of the stairs, and he was struggling with a man Blair didn't recognize, and then Jim got the upper hand and was banging the man's fist against the wall until something clattered to the floor, and Blair suddenly became aware of the overpowering smell of gasoline. And while Blair watched, Jim grabbed the man's head and banged it, hard, against the concrete wall, so that the man slumped unconscious to the floor.

"Jesus, Chief!" Jim exhaled, turning to look at Blair. "Do you have cuffs?" and Blair nodded and tossed them to his partner.

And then Blair heard a wailing sound, and was startled as a small child suddenly barreled out of the darkness and attached itself to Jim Ellison's leg. Jim finished cuffing the unconscious perp before him and then turned to pick up the crying child.

"Who's that?" asked Blair, lowering his gun.

"I don't know," replied Jim, frowning, "but how much you wanna bet that our anonymous tipster is Mom?"

* * *

Rather hilariously, Blair thought, the small girl (for a girl it turned out to be, despite her closely cropped hair) refused to detach herself from Jim Ellison's neck, breaking into ear-piercing screams whenever anyone tried to coax her off. And so Jim relented, and just carried her around with him through the mess of the crime scene as he gave his statements, and pointed out evidence to be bagged or boxed or otherwise brought to the station.

And suddenly Blair found himself getting tired, and he slipped out of the store in search of a cup of coffee. When he returned he sat outside on the curb and sipped at it, watching Simon and his team loading evidence into police cargo trucks.

"Hey, you," Jim said, and Blair turned to see Jim standing beside him, still carrying the little girl.

"Hey yourself," replied Blair, craning his neck look up at his partner. "And hey to you, too," he added to the child, who was staring at him with wide-eyes, her head resting on Ellison's shoulder.

"I think we're almost done," said Jim.

"Good, cause I'm fading fast," replied Blair. "Any sign of Momma?"

"Yeah, she's coming. She called the station again," replied Jim. "Apparently even the criminal classes have their custody battles," he added.

"Well, lucky for us," said Blair.

"Yeah, well, that didn't go as smooth as it could have, but whatever," said Jim. "For some strange reason they objected to me checking their power lines," he added and grinned.

"Can't imagine why," said Blair, grinning back at him. "You want me to take her for a while?" he asked, nodding at the little girl.

"If you can," said Jim. "Good luck." He laughed, and reached out to brush the little girl's mussed brown hair away from her face. "Now why isn't she afraid of me?" he mused. "Children are never afraid of me."

Blair smiled up at him. "Well, it takes a little immaturity to appreciate you," he said, and Jim made a face at his younger partner.

"Come here, sweetheart," Blair said to the little girl, holding his arms up, and Jim gently began to pull her arm from around his neck when she shrieked.

"Yikes," muttered Blair. "Okay, now come on, hon, I won't hurt you. My name's Blair, and I'm nice too, you'll see. Come on, sweetheart," he coaxed softly, and Jim had to blink hard not to succumb to the Guide voice himself. But the little girl was helpless under it, and her arm slipped from around his neck, allowing Jim to lower her into Blair's lap.

"Cheater," Jim said to Blair, sotto voce.

"Hey, you use what you got," replied Blair, smiling at the little girl. "Go wrap this up, okay," said Blair, looking up at Jim tiredly. "Then take me home and put me to bed before I fall over," and Jim frowned and nodded.

* * *

And Blair was close to falling over by the time that Jim finally got him back to the loft. "Oh man," he moaned, as Jim swung the door open. "Beautiful loft — beautiful, beautiful sofa," he said, stumbling toward it and falling over onto it.

"So I've heard," said Jim, shutting and locking the loft door.

"Jim, I don't think we should have plants," said Blair sadly, looking at them.

"I thought you liked plants," said Jim.

"I love plants. But we can't take care of them. Hell, look at them, Jim! They're screaming," said Blair.

"They're surviving," Jim objected.

"Barely. This apartment is, like, Ethiopia for plants. Other plants take pictures of our plants and show them to other plants to raise money. I can't handle the guilt, Jim."

"Are you saying you want me to water the plants?" Jim asked reasonably.

"We're the oppressors," murmured Blair sleepily. "We're the plant overlords."

"All right, come on, Darth Vader," said Jim, moving to the sofa and extending a hand to his lover. "You're making even less sense than usual," he said, heaving Blair to his feet and steering him up the stairs.

"I feel like I could cry," admitted Blair.

"For the plants? That's exhaustion talking," said Jim, pushing him toward the bed. "You need to sleep."

"Come fuck me first," said Blair, falling onto the bed.

"Blair, I don't think you're in any state to — "

"Come on: I'll sleep better. I always sleep better," said Blair, rolling on the bed and looking up at him.

"Blair, you're exhausted," objected Jim.

"No, it's worse than that," said Blair. "I'm on the other side of exhausted and making good time back towards wired," and Jim smiled as he looked at Blair's hair, which was back to standing straight up. Blair grinned as he noticed what Jim was doing. "Hey, man, the hair doesn't lie."

"I think there's three of us in this relationship — you, me, and your hair," said Jim, sitting on the edge of the bed.

"In that case, you're outvoted," said Blair, extending a hand toward him. "Me and my hair want you. So badly, Jim," he added, lowering his voice. "Please?"

And there was some part of him that couldn't handle that Blair was begging him, and there was a part of him that was overjoyed that Blair was begging him, that Blair Sandburg wanted him badly enough to plead for it, to plead for him.

And there was no saying no: there was never any saying no to Blair.

So he took Blair's hand and let Blair tug him down onto the bed, and Blair was touching him and kissing him but exhaustion was making him just that little bit more pliable in Jim's hands. And Jim found himself incredibly turned on by this, and he seized control of their lovemaking, eagerly pulling Blair out of his clothes.

His hands strayed to the most sensitive parts of Blair's body, rubbing and stimulating until Blair was breathless beneath him, his opening stretched wide for Jim's pleasure, his cock hard and leaking, nipples peaked and reddened and begging to be kissed, and Jim pulled away from him and heard himself saying, roughly, "Tell me how much you want it."

"Oh god," Blair choked, "there aren't words — I don't have words, Jim — just — please!"

Jim felt drunk on Blair's desperation, and he turned his lover over and grabbed his hips with strong fingers and pulled Blair's ass up before sliding his cock deep inside him. And every time was like the first time, because some part of him always forgot how good it was to fuck Blair Sandburg. And maybe he needed to forget, because it was imperative to his survival that he forget, because otherwise he wouldn't sleep or eat or work or do anything else, ever.

And it seemed that Blair felt the same way, because he was gasping rhythmically in time to Jim's thrusts, muttering, "yes, yes, yes," as Jim's cock pounded into him again and again. And then suddenly Blair hissed, "Oh god, you're good to me. So good..."

"I love you," Jim replied quietly, moving his arms to wrap them around Blair's chest as he fucked him.

"I know," gasped Blair, squeezing his eyes shut. "I know. I'm so fucking lucky..." and then he cried out, and arched, and Jim tightened his grip on Blair, holding him up, holding on to him tightly as Blair shuddered violently and came hard.

And the sound of Blair's ragged breathing and the feel of Blair spasming in his arms and around his cock shoved Jim toward the edge of his own orgasm, and he could feel himself losing control and letting go — but then Blair sucked in a wet, gasping breath and hissed, "Dial it down! Stay hard for me — stay hard in me," and there was no saying no, there was no saying no to Blair, ever.

Jim pulled Blair nearly upright and drove himself hard into him again, clutching him tightly as he heard Blair groan, "oh yeah," and then Jim had his rhythm back, and he fucked Blair deeply, sinking in and pulling out of the tight, smooth heat of his lover, loving the heavy deadweight of Blair in his arms, loving even the painful strain on his muscles as he sweated and heaved and fucked.

"You're so good to me," Blair was saying again. "So good. Such a good lover — oh god, such a good, fucking lover," and his tone had changed, and his meaning had changed, and Blair was losing control again, and Jim was losing control right along with him and this time there was no power in the universe that was going to stop him.

He heard screaming and he couldn't tell if it was him or Blair, but it didn't much matter, because those last few thrusts were heaven, because there was nothing left in the world but Blair and the pleasure Jim could take from him, and suddenly his muscles didn't work anymore, and he fell to his side pulling Blair with him, because he just couldn't let go of Blair, couldn't let Blair go, and there just wasn't enough air, there was no air in the loft, no air anywhere, and his lungs pounded, trying to get oxygen to his body, to his brain.

His hands were on Blair's soft-hard chest and he could feel it rising and falling as Blair struggled to breathe, too, and Jim suddenly had the strange idea that if he could press himself close enough to Blair, Blair would be able to breathe for him, that Blair would be able to breathe for both of them.

Jim curled around his lover, penis still buried deep within him, and decided not to worry about breathing, to leave breathing up to his Guide. And after a while he heard Blair's breathing settle down into a more rhythmic pattern, and he knew that it was safe to speak.

"Tell you what," Jim murmured into Blair's ear. "When we get the house we'll take the plants out there and set them free, okay?"

"Uh-huh," Blair murmured, "," and he was crashing, utterly plummeting, into sleep, and Jim found himself with two warm armfuls of Blair Sandburg, and he held the big man with the short legs tightly to him, knowing that it was his job to hold on, to stay awake, to keep watch over his Guide while he slept.

The End